Publications

List of VIRP-related Publications (in alphabetical order)

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Canbolat, Sercan, Sarah Gansen, and Patrick James. 2021. “Systemism and Foreign Policy: An Exercise in Systematic Synthesis.” Canadian Foreign Policy Journal 27: 404-434.

Foreign Policy Analysis (FPA) is a highly active area within the social sciences, intersecting with the study of International Relations in any number of ways. The purpose of this article is to put studies from FPA in contact with each other via a graphic method, systemism, to obtain insights that otherwise might prove elusive. Completion of this task is anticipated to yield both academic and policy-related value. This study will unfold in six sections. Section one provides an overview of the project. Systemist graphics are used in sections two through four to convey arguments for three studies from FPA that focus on leadership and decision-making in multiple locations. Section five engages in systematic synthesis based on those works. The sixth and final section sums up the contributions of this article and passes along a few thoughts about future research.

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Gansen, Sarah, and Patrick James. 2021a. “A Graphic Turn for Canadian Foreign Policy: Insights from Systemism.” Canadian Foreign Policy Journal 27: 271-291.

The application of systemism, an innovative and user-friendly technique for generating lucid, graphic summaries of analytical arguments, can enhance the study of Canadian foreign policy. As research and pedagogy on Canada and international relations move forward, its content becomes increasingly vast and intellectually diverse. Systemism offers both a means and a method toward enhanced communication in the face of challenges posed by the rapid expansion of topics and the proliferation of new theories and terminology in the fast-paced world of the new millennium. This is the motivation for a special issue of CFPJ that will show systemism in action across a wide range of issues and locations. This introductory article will proceed in four sections. The first section provides an overview of the project as a whole. Section two introduces systemism as a graphic approach toward the communication of ideas. The third section applies systemism to convey the framework for analysis from the standard textbook in the field – The Politics of Canadian Foreign Policy (Nossal, K. R., Roussel, S., & Paquin, S. The politics of Canadian Foreign Policy. Queen’s policy studies series (4th ed.). Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2015). Section four outlines the articles that follow in making up the special issue.

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Gansen, Sarah, and Patrick James. 2021b. “Reflections on systemism, Canadian foreign policy and international relations.” Canadian Foreign Policy Journal 27: 465-471.

This special issue of CFPJ has introduced systemism, a graphic approach to the study of Canadian foreign policy and International Relations (IR). It is beyond the scope of this final essay to cover even a fraction of the insights and critiques that have been offered along the way, so a few items are identified as particularly salient with regard to recognizing what has been accomplished so far and identifying new directions for research in tandem with systemism. The brief essay that follows will focus on the following topics: gains in substantive knowledge; insights about theorizing; pedagogical applications; reflections on progress; and decision-making support. The essay concludes with a few general reflections about the future of systemism, Canadian foreign policy and IR.

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Gansen, Sarah, and Patrick James. 2022. “Systems Analysis: Systemism and the Visual International Relations Project.” In R. Joseph Huddleston, Thomas Jamieson and Patrick James, eds. Handbook of Research Methods in International Relations. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 89-115.

Under conditions of progressing globalization, the field of International Relations (IR) has become more interdisciplinary and multifaceted, but the increasing complexity also brings about challenges for IR. The Visual International Relations Project (VIRP) is introduced to the field to translate international relations scholarship into visual representations using the technique of systemism. As a perspective on social theory, systemism stresses the importance of theoretical completeness across levels of analysis; in terms of method, the approach emphasizes graphic representation of causal mechanisms. This chapter introduces systemism as a contemporary response to the relative dearth of system-oriented analytical frameworks since the demise of General Systems Theory (GST) and then proceeds to apply the systemist method to produce a graphic presentation of an academic publication – an attempt to show how the VIRP will enhance comprehension and potential for dialogue in IR. It also summarizes applications for systemism over and beyond visualization of individual works of scholarship and identifies priorities for future research.

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Gansen, Sarah, and Patrick James. 2022. “The Russo-Ukrainian War: Insights from Systemism in a Pedagogical Setting.” New Area Studies 3 (1): 1-35.

This article is intended to facilitate, via the systemist method, more effective communication about the Russo-Ukrainian War for individuals both familiar and unfamiliar with the subject. Diagrams based on systemism, a graphic approach toward the exchange of views with origins in the philosophy of inquiry, will demonstrate how analysis of the Russo-Ukraine War can be carried out in an accessible way for scholars and students alike. This capacity, in turn, should promote constructive dialogue about an intense subject. Work will be carried out in seven stages. Stage one provides an overview of the article. The second stage will focus on the meaning and value of systemism. Stage three will introduce the concept of a flipped classroom– an innovative approach toward learning that is compatible with brainstorming and holds implications beyond campus life. The fourth stage provides an example of a flipped classroom in International Relations, with student groups in January and February of 2022 producing systemist diagrams that depict events that eventually developed into the Russo-Ukrainian War. Section five shows how the diagrams became more sophisticated across iterations and combine to set an example for how area work can implement active learning. The sixth section focuses on how systemist graphics can contribute to NAS in a more encompassing way. Seventh and last is a section that sums up what has been accomplished and provides an outlook to the future.

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Hale, Geoffrey. 2021. “Converging and diverging streams: a systemist analysis of Canadian foreign investment policies adaptation to shifting global trends.” Canadian Foreign Policy Journal 27: 347-379.

This article compares Canada’s approach to foreign investment (FDI) policies on a global level at different points in time. Focusing on three publications, it analyzes development of Canadian FDI policies since the 1980s in the context of Kingdon’s model of policy streams. Through the systemist analysis of this chronological development, it identifies factors that have shaped the convergence and divergence of these policy streams. This study also discusses the continuing relevance of these factors, notably growing geopolitical tensions between China and the United States. This study unfolds in six sections. Section one provides an overview of the article. The second section introduces systemism in connection with FDI policies. Sections three through five produce systemist graphics related to each of the above-noted publications. Section six sums up the applications and constraints on systemism as an analytical tool in addressing the evolution of Canadian FDI policies.

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Henders, Susan J. 2021. “People acting across borders and Canadian foreign policy: a systemist analysis.” Canadian Foreign Policy Journal 27: 318-346.

This article expands understanding of Canadian-linked border-crossing non-state actors and their significance for Canadian foreign policy. Using systemism, it studies three relevant works with different (meta)theoretical and conceptual approaches and empirical concerns to clarify how the specific types of border-crossing NSAs condition and impel state policies: through the effects of material structure, explored by Leuprecht with respect to (im)migrants to Canada; the effects of interests and resources derived from transnational networks, knowledge and skill, and socio-economic success, in Singh’s examination of Indo-Canadian diaspora elites; and the effects of intersectional power hierarchies that are world order’s deep structures in Young and Henders’ study of NSAs whose diplomacies have made Canadian-Asian relations. The works also illuminate causal connections related to Canadian state attempts to manage and instrumentalize NSA border-crossing activities, decisions and relations for its own goals. Systemist bricolagic bridging of studies underscores the need for theorizations of the connections between NSA border-crossing and Canadian foreign policy that consider both causal chains of purposive action as well as the conditioning causality of social structural properties. Based on such theorizations, avenues for future research are identified.

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James, Patrick. 2019a. “What do we know about crisis, escalation and war? A visual assessment of the International Crisis Behavior Project.” Conflict Management and Peace Science, 36, 3-19.

This study uses a visualization technique, systemism, to integrate ICB Project findings about crisis, escalation and war in particular. The domain of the analysis, 1999–2017, is the period following the authoritative review of research in Michael Brecher (1999; International studies in the twentieth century and beyond: Flawed dichotomies, syntheses, cumulation, International Studies Quarterly 43: 213–264) up to the present. Systemism is used to combine, in graphic form, substantively significant results from ICB Project research. Insights about cause and effect for escalation processes are obtained that would not readily be available in the absence of graphic representation. This learning is made possible through application of systemism, a visualization technique, to convey a network of variables leading into war.

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James, Patrick. 2019b. “Systemist International Relations.” International Studies Quarterly 63: 781-804.

Systemist international relations (SIR) is put forward as a potential solution to short- and long-term problems faced by the discipline of international relations (IR). SIR responds to the immediate difficulties that stem from an impasse between advocates of analytic eclecticism and skeptics who prefer paradigmatic research. The more sustained challenges posed by the size and complexity of IR also can be met through implementation of SIR, which entails a graphic turn. Along those lines, the Visual International Relations Project (VIRP) is creating an archive of one-page graphic summaries for cause and effect as conveyed in respective publications. The VIRP aims toward an improved state of communication in the field based on such visual representations.

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James, Patrick. 2020. “Systemism and New Area Studies: An Application to the Integrated Capabilities Framework.” New Area Studies 1: 100-131.

With the advent of New Area Studies, interdisciplinary research is entering into an exciting era. Application of insights from the humanities to the study of politics already can boast of considerable results. The ultimate success of New Area Studies, however, is not guaranteed. On the one hand, implementing frameworks from a wide range of fields beyond the social sciences can yield intellectual payoffs beyond what might be obtained under more restrictive conditions. On the other hand, a panoramic approach to political analysis creates ongoing challenges to effective communication. What if the blending together of many disciplines results in a figurative Tower of Babel rather than a well-integrated body of knowledge? Systemism, which features a graphic approach to portrayal of arguments, is put forward as a method that can assist New Area Studies in meeting the challenge posed by engagements between and among a wide range of disciplines that entail vastly different terminologies and approaches toward research. To show the value of systemism in action, a study of the Integrated Capabilities Framework from Hodgett and Clark will be converted into a diagrammatic exposition. Work concludes with further ideas for how systemism can help New Area Studies as it seeks to incorporate insights from a variety of fields within the humanities.

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James, Patrick. 2022a. Realism and International Relations: A Graphic Approach Toward Scientific Progress. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

This book puts forward a point of view about advancement for International Relations in general and realism in particular. If borne out, the arguments contained in this study could have far-reaching consequences for International Relations and even beyond. Effective debate among realists and those who identify with other schools of thought has diminished dramatically over time. International Relations scholars have become dissatisfied with results from exchanges in words alone. Translation of the vast amount of information in the field into knowledge requires a greater emphasis on communication beyond the use of text. Given the challenges posed by existing and intensifying information overload, a call is made in this book for a new vision of progress, with a solid foundation in the philosophy of inquiry, through graphic representation of cause and effect. Realist scholarship in the post–World War II era is the natural domain for application of systemism, a graphic form of expression with straightforward rules for portrayal of cause and effect within theories. Systemism offers a visualization technique borrowed and adapted from the philosophy of science. Systemist graphics reveal the shortcomings, contributions, and potential of realism, the embattled “canary in the coal mine” for International Relations. These visualizations, which focus on realist theories about war, are intended to bring order out of what critics describe as chaos. In sum, a graphic turn for realism in particular and International Relations in general is essential in order to achieve the scientific progress that otherwise is likely to remain elusive.

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James, Patrick. 2022b. “Systems of Canadian Studies: A Personal View.” In Christopher Kirkey and Richard Nimijean, eds. The Construction of Canadian Identity Abroad. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 279-300.

Representation of ideas based on systemist graphics is advocated as a way of dealing with both cross-national and interdisciplinary challenges to effective communication in the information age. Systemist visualizations resemble conventional “box and arrow” diagrams but are created in compliance with rules that ensure reproducibility and mutual understanding. Included in the chapter are examples of systemist graphics to depict scholarship from Canadian Studies based in the humanities and social sciences. One example, from the humanities, is the evolution of Alice Munro’s early career as depicted in the authoritative biography from Thacker. Another instance, from the social sciences, focuses on the theory of institutional imbalance in constitutional politics. Such systemist visualizations are used to stimulate engagement across boundaries and potentially move Canadian Studies in the direction of greater disciplinary integration.

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James, Patrick. 2023. Systemist International Relations. San Diego, CA: Cognella.

This book introduces a visual approach, systemism, which is intended to facilitate understanding of even the most esoteric elements within IR. Applicable to any field of study, systemist perspective calls for comprehensive and logically consistent theorizing. This goal is achieved by conveying analytical arguments in a graphic form. Systemist figures are created in compliance with rigorous requirements that enable these visualizations to be compared with each other. Moreover, it is possible to learn how to apply systemism in just a few hours, which gives it an advantage over other techniques – even those that also draw upon visualizations. This volume is intended as a textbook that can be used at various levels – from first-year undergraduate students upward to doctoral candidates – to gain a basic sense of systemism and how it can be applied productively. The book introduces systemism as a perspective on how the world works, along with its method for transforming the analytical argument from a given publication into a one-page graphic summary.

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Lane, Andrea. 2021. “N = 1: initial impressions of systemism in Canadian foreign policy.” Canadian Foreign Policy Journal 27: 435-442.

Systemism, a visual approach to mapping existing International Relations scholarship, aspires to distill complex and seemingly divergent research streams, across long-siloed areas of scholarship, into more digestible form. The goal of the systemist framework is to make the field’s vast sub-fields more accessible, in the hope of bridging the gap between approaches and research agendas, possibly promoting previously unconsidered collaborations. This essay considers the application of systemism to five studies, and identifies some possible strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) posed by the application of this approach. Ultimately, this review essay suggests that possibly the greatest opportunity that systemism offers to IR (and the more specialized study of Canadian foreign policy) may lie in making the field’s scholarship more accessible for practitioners and students.

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Mahant, Edelgard, and Sarah Gansen. 2021. Plus ça change, plus c’est la mȇme chose: foreign policy of new regimes and their leaders -a systemist exposition.” Canadian Foreign Policy Journal 27: 292-317.

This article portrays and diagrammatically analyzes the foreign policies of three different new regimes and their respective leaders. In each instance, the leader enunciated a foreign policy designed to promote not only the interests of the state but also its identity. The article focuses on Vladimir Lenin and Soviet Russia, Konrad Adenauer and the Federal Republic of Germany, and Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki in South Africa. Starting with the objectives of the former regime, the article outlines how the foreign policy of each new regime and the respective leader(s) led to both a divergence and a continuation of that policy. Systemist graphics are used to carry out a systematic synthesis of what can be learned from the three preceding studies in combination with each other. The study unfolds in six sections. The first section provides an overview of the project. Sections two through four focus respectively on the South African, Russian/Soviet, and German cases. The fifth section initiates a systematic synthesis that is based on the preceding set of studies. Sixth, and finally, the concluding section sums up what has been accomplished and says a bit about possible future research.

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Nossal, Kim, Stéphane Roussel, and Stéphane Paquin. “Assessing the graphic turn in Canadian foreign policy.”Canadian Foreign Policy Journal 27: 443-449.

This assessment of the graphic turn in Canadian foreign policy focuses on the visualization of our text, The Politics of Canadian Foreign Policy (PCFP). We note the apparent disjuncture between systemism as an approach to understanding society on the one hand, and the graphic exercise that is at the core of the Visual International Relations Project. Focusing on the latter rather than the former, we assess what the graphic visualization of PCFPdemonstrates about our text. We find that the visualization not only accurately portrays the main lines of argument, but also clearly identifies some of the key weaknesses and silences in the text. We also conclude that a key utility of the visualization project lies in its contribution to pedagogy, providing students with ready and accessible guide to works in IR and instructors with a useful tool to assess possible course adoptions.

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Pfonner, Michael, and Patrick James. 2020. “The Visual International Relations Project”, International Studies Review 22: 192-213.

International studies, which in the twenty-first century exists as a global, multifaceted and interdisciplinary enterprise, is ready for a turn toward graphic communication. Evidence is mounting that the complexity of international studies is over and beyond what can be managed, intellectually speaking, through an approach that relies overwhelmingly on the exchange of words. Effective communication throughout international studies requires a turn toward graphic means. Thus, the Visual International Relations Project (VIRP) is introduced in this article as a pathway toward more effective conveyance between and among sectors of international studies. Work within the VIRP focuses on creation of an archive that will be available to members of the International Studies Association (ISA). Work proceeds in six sections. The first section provides an overview of the communication-related challenges facing international studies as scholarship becomes increasingly global in scope and diverse with regard to theorizing and methods applied. Section two makes the case for a visual approach to combat intellectual isolation that is intensifying as a result of communication through words alone. Along with a few alternatives in section three, the foundation for a recommended graphic turn, systemism, is introduced. Systemism emphasizes completeness and visual representation of theorizing. Section four applies a graphic method based on systemism to depict works of scholarship in a common format. Value added from visual representation of these scholarly works is demonstrated in section five, within which communication takes place between and among them. Section six sums up the contributions of the graphic approach based on systemism and explores future directions for research.

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Smith, Heather A. 2021. “That’s a “Hard no” from me: the questions we really need to ask.” Canadian Foreign Policy Journal 27: 458-464.

Sarah Gansen and Patrick James ask: “is a turn toward systemist graphics the way forward for more effective study of Canadian foreign policy in particular and IR in general” (Gansen and James, this volume, p. 18)? My response is no. In fact, it’s a “hard no”. Not only is this not the way forward for the study of Canadian foreign policy, it is the wrong question to be asking about Canadian foreign policy in terms of theory, practice and teaching. The way forward is by asking questions about who we are and who we want to be as a subfield, not about embracing models that take us further from the questions that we need to ask of ourselves.

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Warner, Rosalind, Sarah Gansen, and Patrick James. “A systemist depiction of Canadian disaster risk reduction research and approaches.” Canadian Foreign Policy Journal 27: 380-403.

In order to improve visual communication of disaster research, this article provides a systemist visual representation of the cause and effect relationships, trends, and logical impacts of different pieces in the field of Canadian disaster risk reduction and corresponding policy decisions on assistance. Three studies are included. These works focus, in interconnected ways, on resilience, governance, and related factors vis-à-vis Canadian disaster risk reduction. In carrying out this graphic analysis, the article highlights areas of crossover as well as fruitful directions for future learning to further develop and improve the decision-making process and Canada’s efforts to reduce the risks of disasters. Work proceeds in six sections. The first section provides an overview of the project. Sections two through four create systemist visualizations of the respective studies. The fifth section engages in systematic synthesis based on the preceding graphics. Sixth, and finally, conclusions are offered, along with a few ideas about future research.